Budget deals and mixed metaphors

 

How many Plaid AMs can you fit into a lift? I don't know but late yesterday afternoon I bumped into Leanne Wood and Ieuan Wyn Jones in an Assembly lift. I got out on the 4th floor, telling them we were planning to "ratchet up" speculation on last night's programmes about a deal on the budget being imminent. "You do that" they said- and didn't get out. The government floor is the fifth.

I'm guessing that half an hour later, the budget deal was done.

If you were hoping for a bit of a fanfare, or perhaps an announcement in a packed chamber today, or just a colourful, relief-fuelled clip from the First Minister and a jubliant Plaid, I'm afraid you've drawn a blank.

We can come up with a jubilant Plaid clip for you later but as for the rest? Quietly and with little drama, Labour have swapped their budget buddies from last year - the Liberal Democrats - to Plaid Cymru this year. That was then - and this is now.

I can offer some colour care of Conservative AM Darren Millar AM's tweeted suggestion that the deal between the former coalition partners is "like a dog returning to its vomit". I take it he's not a fan then. The party's official press release goes, not surprisingly, for a different metaphor, condemning "a cheap deal that hails the return of an old and ineffective tag team".

The Lib Dems are rather more sanguine. They gave it a good go, they couldn't get the deal they wanted. If it's a no to extending the pupil premium then it's no from Kirsty Williams and her group to supporting the budget.

"The budget negotiations with the Welsh Government were positive and constructive but Labour could not agree to the substantial increase in the funding for the poorest children in our society. This budget will mean that the funding gap between English and Welsh children will increase and I am very concerned that Wales will fall further behind".

One element in those negotiations survives - a push for a fund to pay for innovative treatments. The Lib Dems wanted £8m to spend on new forms of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, treatment for dementia sufferers or those suffering from mental health issues. They haven't got it as part of a deal but are "heartened that the Welsh Government seems to be willing to take our idea forward."

What do Plaid get? To say that thanks to them, an extra £20 million will be spent on supporting apprenticeships in Wales, particularly those in the 16-24 age group. That'll be handy on the doorsteps in future.

They've also got Labour's agreement to a £10million investment over the next two years in a science park involving Bangor and Aberystwyth universities. Where might that be? We don't yet know but might the fact that Plaid's finance spokesman, budget negotiator, former leader and Ynys Mon AM Ieuan Wyn Jones closed the deal point in any particular direction?

So £20m give or take last year, versus £25m give or take this year.

What else do Plaid get? Credibility, relevance, a boost for Leanne Wood and her desire to form a "united Welsh alternative That support doesn't, incidentally, extend to voting for the whole budget as the Lib Dems did last year. Plaid have only agreed to abstain.

They also get an opportunity to explain how come they condemned last year's deal as "cheap" while their own deal is not. Does the difference between cheap and worthwhile boil down to £5m?

What do Labour get out of it? A deal they can effortlessly present as "entirely in line" with their manifesto and proof positive that when Carwyn Jones formed his government, he meant it when he promised to reach out to other parties.

Carwyn Jones also gets to close an early deal on his spending plans. What that means, of course, is that he's now free to get on with thinking about the next chapter for his goverment - who knows, perhaps even the very shape of it - two years into its five year life.

 
Betsan Powys, Political editor, Wales Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    unfortunately Mab. I didn't see your posts. I can imagine that you may have worded it in such a way as to rouse the suspicion of the moderators. Try just posting the links rather than any commentary...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 65.

    #64 Llyn, if you believe that it is for the strong to succour the weak, then somewhat larger regions where money can flow down to those who need it, and incomes be made more equal, are necessary. But, if those who are taxed are to have some voice in how their taxes are spent, which is fundamental to democracy, then you have a central government.
    Otherwise, London becomes another Monaco.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 64.

    56 - why are you going on about Independence to me - I haven't even mention the word? I agree though you can be left wing and a centerist. That is the common thread between the far left and right - their arrogance in believing that they alone know all the answers and should dictate everything from an all powerful center and to hell with local/regional democracy and national minorities.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 63.

    #61 Austria has Wien,the centre of the Hapsburg Empire that stretched from the Adriatic to the North Sea.and lasted over 600 years.
    Wales has Machynlleth, centre of the principality of Owain Glyn Dwr, that stretched from Builth Wells to Angelsey and lasted maybe a dozen years.
    Can you think of any reason why Austria might generate more GNP than Wales ??

  • rate this
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    Comment number 62.

    55 Pt2: Oh... and every nation not in heart of Europe from Tibet through to the Micro Polynesian nations through to little tiny mountainous states of Luxemburg, Andorra, Lichtenstein who are Independent states. Not to mention every other nation located within vast wildernesses & vast oceans. Keep taking the Tablets as you look so stupid with your backward outlook & crass points of view. lol

 

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